Microsoft’s bold, media-hyped unveiling of its new tablet on Tuesday brought many tech enthusiasts, and frankly the rest of us, to the web hoping for a glimpse of the new iPad killer. Of course, what we got was a presentation that showcased a mix of cool and function, sending a prototype to the forefront to generate buzz for a product launch down the road. It was evocative of Apple…the very giant they hope to overtake.
While the specs are critical and impressive (USB ports and a built-in keyboard!) the bigger story is the idea behind the product. Not a tablet…that’s been done. But a new kind of innovation for Microsoft—I’m calling it Do-It-Yourself Innovation. DIY Innovation is a sharp turn, at least in the computing space, for Microsoft and it is a representative of the intersection between the brand and the idea.
Innovation comes from either a place of opportunity—I see a gap in the marketplace and here’s my solution. Or it comes from a competitive place—my competition is eating my market share and I need to get a leg up.
In this case, Microsoft is innovating out of the necessity to catch up to what Apple has built. The world has come to trust Apple because of the seamless interaction between their hardware and software and the brand is all the stronger for it. The OS doesn’t crash and the product functions and looks beautiful. But is there a causal effect? Is the innovation on the design and production side so fine-tuned that the OS is in a place to work effectively. No bugs. No viruses. No problem.
For Microsoft…it was a problem. Is their flagship—the software—being ever so slightly compromised by the myriad producers of hardware that run it? More importantly, does any lack of performance—be it Microsoft’s issue or Dell’s or Acer’s—ultimately degrade the Microsoft brand? We’re about to put that idea to the test.
Microsoft is now in the full-service innovation business, with their brand tied inextricably to every aspect of the customer’s experience. It’s an amazing shift from their previous position, which was to create something that people didn’t even know they needed and let others build the tools to help it work. Now, they’re creating the product, the back-end and the experience.
Whether it is successful remains to be seen, but DIY Innovation is a factor that I believe will keep growing. It sounds counterintuitive, but I actually believe that by doing it yourself a company is actually being more holistic and collaborative. In essence, you are collaborating with your consumers to create a product that takes into account their every need from a broad perspective. By wresting control back on the innovation front, a company like Microsoft can redefine its role in the consumer’s mind.
It is clear that for all the marketing and spectacle Microsoft’s tablet and any other new innovations will ultimately be judged on their effectiveness, but it goes to show you that a multibillion dollar company can still bootstrap it. Take that lesson back to your company and clients and see where the DIY Innovation can occur.
image credit: thetechblock & digitaltrends
Mark E. Miller is the Director of Marketing for Emergenetics International – an organizational development consulting company dedicated to expanding the capabilities of the one thing most valuable to every one of our clients – their people. Follow us on Twitter.